Monday, April 27, 2009

Portrait of a Desert Tribal College

This past weekend the board of directors of the American Indian College Fund had the opportunity to travel to Sells, Arizona, where we met with students and teachers at Tohono O'oodham Community College (TOCC). We toured the eastern campus and heard presentations by several students, including TOCC's student of the year, Theresa Vavages, also gave a presentation about the challenges she faced as she made the transition from her traditional life in the desert to life as a tribal college student. Raised by a single mother who passed on her love of words and books, Theresa is now getting ready to graduate and go on to the next phase of her life: working for the college.

It is stories like these that remind me of the important work we do at the American Indian College Fund. The Tohono O'odham nation is the second largest in the United States, and includes rugged terrain straddling the U.S.-Mexico border. Without the tribal college's two campuses, students like Theresa might not have the opportunity to attend college. Many students in the Tohono O'odham nation already travel huge distances, many as far as 60 miles one way, to get an education at the tribal college. When so many students do not have the money for a car or gasoline in a place where there is no public trqansportation, committed teachers pick their students up en route to class, and many others car pool--or walk.

Thanks to the American Indian College Fund's scholarships and the college's new distance learning program, many more students like Theresa will be able to achieve their dream of a college education.

Monday, April 6, 2009

How Do You "Think Indian"?

I received a letter over the weekend asking me how "To think Indian is to cure diabetes with sacred food and hoops." The writer said surely "Indian thinking" doesn't believe that Type I Diabetes, where the person has no or little insulin, can be cured with sacred foods and hoops!

Exercise and a good diet are part of every doctor’s recommendation for controlling diabetes. Many people do not know that research is being conducted at Oglala Lakota College on a native medicinal plant that mimics insulin in the body when it is ingested by rats, putting the disease into complete remission. American Indian researchers are using their natural Indian intellect and age-old wisdom to offer solutions to today’s problems.

I would like to take this opportunity for our tribal college communities and students to share ways that they “think Indian” in the classroom, laboratory, and everyday life as we continue to celebrate our native way of thinking. Please feel free to comment on this blog or send us an e-mail at